Launched in India, My Book on Leprosy Depicts My Approach to Life (1) [2020/03/12]
Participating in an event in New Delhi on January 30, 2020, to mark the launch in India of my English-language book on my pursuit of a world without leprosy−No Matter Where the Journey Takes Me: One Man's Quest for a Leprosy-Free World.
What a surprise! I had not expected so many dignitaries would turn up at an event in New Delhi, India, on January 30 to mark the launch of my book on my life-long quest for a world without leprosy and the stigma and discrimination associated with it. I extended my wholehearted gratitude to Dr. S. Jaishankar, Minister of External Affairs, and other distinguished guests from the nation’s political and business communities for coming to the event on India’s Anti-Leprosy Day, one of the focal points of my nine-day trip to the country.
At the urging of Mr. Tatsuya Tanami, a special adviser to The Nippon Foundation, on the ground that leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is indeed a global challenge, I decided to issue an English translation of one of my books. It was released by Hurst Publishers in June last year as No Matter Where the Journey Takes Me: One Man's Quest for a Leprosy-Free World. It was also a great honor for me that the book was reviewed in Nature, one of the world’s most authoritative science journals, prior to its publication.
I have published more than 10 books in Japan, but have never held book launch events in my country. This time, however, the book was launched in India thanks to the efforts of Mr. Tarun Das, chairman of Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation.
From when I was young, I agonized over how I should lead my life. At the age of 32, I tried my hand at what turned out to be the precursor of the IT business, and managed to make my fortune by the time I turned 40.
My late father, Ryoichi Sasakawa, devoted his entire life to philanthropic activities. He had a strong sense of justice and compassion toward those affected by leprosy and other disadvantaged people. I travelled overseas with him as much as possible on his philanthropic mission.
The first time I met leprosy patients was about 40 years ago, when I accompanied him on a trip to South Korea, during which we visited a local leprosarium he built. Lying in their beds in a hospital room with an unsettling odor, many of the patients had severely deformed hands, feet and faces. They were abandoned by their families, rejected by society, deprived of their freedom and hope all because of leprosy. I was shocked, but my father took each patient’s hand in his own, spoke with them, offered words of encouragement, held them tight and cried.
He was such a strong person that he never shed tears even when his own parents passed away. This was the first time I had ever seen him cry and I suddenly found myself overwhelmed with respect for my father.
As I wrote earlier, I was agonizing over how I should lead my life despite my successful business career. I decided to devote my life to carrying on his work at the moment when I saw him in tears.
With Dr. S. Jaishankar (right), India’s Minister of External Affairs, one of many dignitaries who attended my book launch event.